You'll need a keen interest in filmmaking and strong financial and business sense to be successful as a television, film or video producer

Producers play an integral role in the television, film and video industries. In this role you will oversee each project from conception to completion and may also be involved in the marketing and distribution process.

You'll work closely with directors and other production staff on a shoot. Increasingly, you'll also need to have directing skills to take charge of all project operations. You'll arrange funding for each project and keep the production within the allocated budget.

Responsibilities

As a television/film/video producer, you'll need to:

  • raise funding
  • read, research and assess ideas and finished scripts
  • commission writers or secure the rights to novels, plays or screenplays
  • build and develop a network of contacts
  • liaise and discuss projects with financial backers - projects can range from a small, corporate video costing £500 to a multimillion-pound-budget Hollywood feature film
  • use computer software packages for screenwriting, budgeting and scheduling
  • hire key staff, including a director and a crew to shoot programmes, films or videos
  • control the budget and allocate resources
  • pull together all the strands of creative and practical talent involved in the project to create a team
  • maintain contemporary technical skills
  • organise shooting schedules - dependent on the type of producer role and availability of support staff
  • troubleshoot
  • ensure compliance with relevant regulations, codes of practice and health and safety laws
  • supervise the progress of the project from production to post production
  • hold regular meetings with the director to discuss characters and scenes
  • act as a sounding board for the director
  • bring the finished production in on budget.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for assistant producers may range from around £18,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience, salaries can reach £40,000 to £55,000.
  • Departmental heads can earn £60,000 to £80,000, plus benefits.

Fees for freelance producers vary considerably, depending on experience and whether you work on TV factuals or dramas, or on feature films. For advice on pay guidelines for freelancers see the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU).

Salaries will also differ depending on the size of the company and the size and scale of the project. Salaried, permanent jobs with companies are becoming fewer, which may lead to financial insecurity. Employment is regularly offered on a self-employed or freelance-contract basis.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Work involves regular unsocial hours at weekends and in the evenings. Long hours and time spent in meetings or on location is the norm.

Career breaks may create difficulties because of the competitive nature of the industry and the need to network and keep up to date with industry changes.

What to expect

  • The working environment may vary. Producers may spend a lot of time in the office or may be based in a studio or on location. Much of the work is in London, or other large cities, but location work can be anywhere in the country.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are common and work is frequently offered on a contract basis. The freelance nature of the work may cause some employment insecurity.
  • The ratio of male to female producers is approximately equal.
  • You need to be highly motivated and able to withstand pressure as this job can be very stressful.
  • Flexibility and mobility are extremely important, as is the ability to handle a high level of financial responsibility.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following subjects at degree or HND level may increase your chances:

  • broadcasting
  • communication and media studies
  • information technology/multimedia
  • photography/film/television.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible, but most producers are educated to degree level.

Postgraduate qualifications are not required for entry into the profession. However, courses containing practical work experience in production may increase your chances of success in a notoriously competitive environment. Be aware that entry to these programmes is competitive and most require some previous experience so that you can give evidence of your practical skills and your work.

Look for courses that provide cutting-edge technical resources, a reasonable final production budget and contacts within the industry. For information on relevant training courses see the:

Search for postgraduate courses in media production.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • confidence in your ability
  • strong communication and people skills
  • presentation and pitching skills
  • strong time and resource management skills
  • creative ability
  • the ability to cope under pressure
  • a strong head for figures
  • leadership skills.

Work experience

If you can gain some work experience by taking a weekend course while you are still studying, it may improve your chances of entry into a production career.

Any opportunities to network should be exploited and those in the sector expect it. If you can manage to work without pay for a short time, volunteer to work at some of the television and film festivals held annually throughout the UK.

As this is a job that requires experience, even first-time producers will have a significant track record in the industry, perhaps as an assistant producer or in research, marketing and scriptwriting. Producers are expected to have several years' experience and a thorough understanding of all programme-making techniques, including directing and editing skills.

Employers

Major employers include the UK's televisions channels, such as:

And, within the film industry you may find employment with:

  • independent production companies (known as 'indies')
  • production and facilities houses
  • community film/video projects
  • digital and internet channels (e.g. YouTube) also employ producers.

Look for job vacancies at:

Competition is fierce. Job vacancies are rarely advertised, so developing a network of contacts is essential as many jobs are gained through word of mouth.

Use creative job-hunting methods, such as approaching production and post-production companies speculatively with evidence of your work (e.g. showreel). Be prepared to follow up letters and CVs in person by knocking on doors. Research the industry and individual production companies thoroughly. Keep abreast of current trends.

Focus your job search initially on runner positions. This is the area of work where recent graduates are most likely to find a job although increasingly, even runners may need to show that they have acquired some experience. Running is a good way to network, to help get a first job or training place.

With considerable experience it may be possible to find work as a film/video production manager - the role of deputy to a film/video producer, organising all the essential support facilities for the team, resolving problems and helping to bring the production in on budget. Experience in this role could potentially lead to employment as a producer.

Prospective employers can browse CVs and call candidates for interview through the use of sites such as:

However, an annual subscription charge applies to applicants wanting to post CVs on these sites. Although very useful, consider whether or not you are happy for your details to be made freely available.

As a producer, you can register as a member of Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) and gain access to a range of benefits.

Professional development

The majority of training is carried out on the job, by employers. In addition, numerous short courses, and some training schemes are available, such as the BBC Production Trainee Scheme and those advertised on Broadcast.

The government and industry-funded organisation, responsible for ensuring that workers in the audio-visual industries are appropriately trained, is Creative Skillset - The Sector Skills Council for the Creative Industries. In conjunction with industry employers and training providers, it runs free and subsidised training for those with some experience.

Work experience placements in a variety of roles within the sector - as well as the opportunity to study for a recognised qualification - are offered by The Advanced Apprenticeship Programme in Digital and Creative Media, developed by Creative Skillset. Creative Skillset provides links to other training programmes run by broadcasting and independent production companies.

Training for independent TV and digital media production companies and freelancers is provided by the Indie Training Fund (ITF), which offers a range of courses relating to production.

Career prospects

Programme makers and producers working in television, film and video tend to work as self-employed freelancers on fixed, often short-term, contracts.

There is no fixed route for promotion for producers and progression depends on opportunities arising on an 'as and when' basis. The common alternative is to progress by creating a studio, or by moving into work as an executive producer, accountable for several projects.

Taking the time to learn about all aspects of the television, film or video industries may help you progress in your career. Volunteering to work on new projects or programmes may also help you gain promotion.